Following the American Civil War Sesquicentennial with day by day writings of the time, currently 1863.

Post image for Diary of David L. Day.

Diary of David L. Day.

September 15, 2014

David L Day–My diary of rambles with the 25th Mass

We Leave Virginia.

Newbern, Sept. 15. On the 5th of this month the 23d and 25th Massachusetts embarked on the steamer Winona, from Bermuda Hundred bound for Newbern. The 9th New Jersey and 27th Massachusetts embarked on another boat at the same time for the same destination. On the morning of the 6th we ran up to Portsmouth, taking our camp equipage and knapsacks aboard, and ran back into Hampton Roads and anchored. There was a heavy storm blowing outside and we lay at our anchorage all day the 7th. On the 8th we steamed up and anchored off Fortress Monroe, but soon received orders to put out to sea. The captains of both boats objected to going, saying it was too rough to venture outside. On the morning of the 9th we received peremptory orders to pull up our mudhooks and start. Then ensued a sharp correspondence between our captain and some one in the fort, said to be Gen. Butler, and it certainly sounded a great deal like him. The captain objected to taking out his boat on the ground that she was only a light river boat and entirely unfit for an ocean trip, and besides was only chartered for the bay and rivers, and he did not feel like taking her out without first consulting her owners at Baltimore. Word came back that it made no difference about the owners or for what she was chartered, the boat was going to Newbern or go to pieces. In this dilemma the captain said that the boat might go but that he shouldn’t take the responsibility of taking her out. Soon word came back that he would take her out, or go into the fort, wearing a ball and chain. The captain, finding himself of no more account than a common soldier, was obliged to accept the situation. Toward night our consort, which was a sea-going boat, led off, we following after.

I felt a little nervous about going out to sea in so frail a craft, and thought it rather rough that after having gone through what we had we should be taken out to sea and drowned. I comforted myself with the thought that soldiers were not supposed to have any choice in the manner of their death. We found it rough going round Cape Henry, as there is almost always a chop sea there even in mild weather. Getting around the cape, we encountered heavy swells and rollers and every little while a big roller would strike us under the port guard and make every timber in the old craft snap. I expected every minute to see the guard, if not the whole deck torn off. I remained awake the whole night watching our consort, which kept just ahead of us, and reckoned on my chance for a swim.

We reached Hatteras inlet early on the morning of the 10th, and landed at Fort Spinola, on the south side of the Trent river at Newbern, in the afternoon. After landing we marched up into the camp of the 9th Vermont—a sick, ragged, dirty, lousy crowd. The Vermonters gathered wonderingly around us, extending us every sympathy and hospitality that lay in their power. The old regiment was divided off into three or four small companies, one of which under command of Capt. Emery, was sent out to Price’s creek, about a mile from here, to go into quarters and do some light picket duty. We have once more got ourselves cleaned up, our hair trimmed and dressed in clean, whole clothing, and begin to look quite like ourselves again.

We are again on our old stamping ground, but, alas, how changed! Only a small remnant now remains of that grand old regiment that left Worcester three years ago. They fill honored graves on half a hundred battlefields, they are inmates of every hospital from Boston to Newbern, and are wasting away in rebel prisons; a handful only remaining to tell the sad tale. In a few days more they will be still further decimated by a hundred or more whose time will be out and go home. The whole south for the past three years has been singularly exempt from the scourge of yellow fever, but it has now broken out in Newbern, and is raging to a great extent, 30 or 40 dying daily. It has not yet reached the camps outside the city, and hopes are entertained that it will not.

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